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Twins fall to Tigers 5-2 in Simeon Woods Richardson’s big-league pitching debut

While the day started inauspiciously — Twins fielders committed three errors in the first inning — the rookie settled in nicely, throwing five innings and allowing just three hits in the Twins’ 5-2 loss to the Tigers (65-93) in the series finale at Comerica Park, a game in which the Twins (77-82) managed just three hits of their own.

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DETROIT — As he walked from the bullpen in center field toward the first-base dugout at Comerica Park after warming up before Sunday’s game, Twins pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson allowed himself a moment to look around and soak it all in.

Woods Richardson was drafted at age 17 in the second round by the New York Mets. At 18, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for all-star Marcus Stroman. Two summers later, while competing in the Olympic Games in Tokyo with Team USA, he got word — he was traded again for another all-star pitcher at age 20. This time, it was José Berríos, and he was headed to Minnesota.

On the day he turned 22 — Sept. 27 — he got the news of a lifetime: He was headed to the big leagues. A couple of days later, he found out he wasn’t just in Detroit to serve as a member of the Twins’ taxi squad but to make his debut.

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Simeon Woods Richardson

“Walking in, seeing that point of view that I had, I was like, ‘OK, it’s for real. It’s serious,’ ” Woods Richardson said.

After excelling at Double-A and Triple-A this season, Woods Richardson debuted in the bigs Sunday afternoon in Detroit, making him the youngest pitcher to crack the majors this season. While the day started inauspiciously — Twins fielders committed three errors in the first inning — the rookie settled in nicely, throwing five innings and allowing just three hits in the Twins’ 5-2 loss to the Tigers (65-93) in the series finale at Comerica Park, a game in which the Twins (77-82) managed just three hits of their own.

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“I was almost hyperventilating,” Woods Richardson said. “But after the first inning was done, we got back into the zone. We got back into the rhythm, mental cues that I had, and just pitched my game.”

In that first inning, he walked the first batter he faced, Akil Baddoo, who promptly stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Ryan Jeffers. Baddoo scored after a grounder got past first baseman Jose Miranda, the team’s second gaffe of the inning. A second Tigers run scored in the inning on a wild pitch. But Woods Richardson got out of the inning with a double play when Miguel Cabrera tried to tag up on a fly ball to left and was thrown out at the plate, and dealt with far less trouble as his outing went on.

After allowing a solo home run to Eric Haase in the third inning, Woods Richardson retired seven of the next eight batters he faced to end his outing. He finished the day at 91 pitches, capping a season that saw him rise all the way from Double-A Wichita to the majors, in front of a crowd that he said included both sides of his family and all of his cousins, who traveled to Detroit on short notice.

“I do like the way that Simeon settled in,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Obviously, first inning, whether it’s nerves or who knows what it is, he was still finding his release point and still finding his command. But once he did, I think we got a chance to see what this young man’s capable of, and we saw a little bit of everything.”

The Twins were plenty eager to watch Woods Richardson, one of their top pitching prospects, debut. And the small taste of the majors he got Sunday — and will continue to get from being around the team during the final week of the season — they hope will prove beneficial moving forward as he fights for a roster spot next spring.

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“I got to be on the big-league field, talk to the guys, see the competition. It put me on a better note for next year, see what I need to work on, see what I need to critique, see what I need to tackle in different game plans,” Woods Richardson said. “I think I loved all of that. Tried to soak it up as much as I can, tried not to let it rush me. Yeah, after the game, I kind of had to take a deep breath, finally settle in, and just talk baseball with the guys, just be a sponge.”

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